YEREVAN — Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has reaffirmed his government’s intention to deepen Armenia’s relations with neighboring Iran despite U.S. economic sanctions re-imposed on the Islamic Republic.
“We intend to deepen not only economic but also political relations with Iran. All prerequisites for that exist in Armenia,” he told reporters during a weekend visit to Vanadzor.
Pashinian spoke while attending the official opening of an Armenian-Iranian joint venture that will manufacture pressurized gas cylinders in Armenia’s third largest city.
Top executives of the Iranian company Rad Sane and its Armenian partners that have built the plant also announced other investment projects when they met with Pashinian before the ceremony. In particular, they are planning to assemble Iranian-designed cars in Armenia.
“Our cars could enter the Armenian market already in March,” said Arayik Asrian, a co-owner of the new plant.
“I said during our conversation that we are very interested in having new investments flow in from Iran and more Iranian tourists visit Armenia,” stressed Pashinian.
The Armenian leader already pledged last month to “develop relations with Iran very intensively.” He said the United States “understands our situation and policy.”
Earlier in November, a team of officials from the U.S. state and treasury departments visited Yerevan to explain the sanctions Armenia’s government and private sector. Iran was also high on the agenda of U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton’s October trip to Armenia.
Bolton said he hold Pashinian that Washington will enforce the sanctions “very vigorously.” Commercial and other traffic through the Armenian-Iranian border is therefore “going to be a significant issue,” he said.
Pashinian said his government is doing its best to minimize the negative impact of the sanctions on Iranians doing business in Armenia. He again acknowledged that in the last few months Armenian commercial banks have closed the accounts of Iranian citizens living in the country.
Pashinian insisted that the U.S. administration “has no problem” with law-abiding Iranian nationals having bank accounts in Armenia. Armenian banks, he said, are simply afraid of being blacklisted by Washington.
“Some banks have already realized that there won’t be problems with the accounts of private individuals [from Iran] who have not been sanctioned,” he went on. “This is not a state problem but we are now very closely cooperating, discussing and talking to solve that problem.”